AFT members joined immigration reform supporters April 9 on the National Mall to welcome immigration rights activists who were winding up a 2½-month nationwide tour. The Fast for Families Across America tour started Jan. 27, when two buses set out from Los Angeles, stopping at congressional offices on their way to Washington, D.C. They were demanding that Speaker John Boehner bring comprehensive immigration reform to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.
"We have talked to thousands of people across the country, and we know that America wants reform," said Eliseo Medina, a Fast for Families leader and former secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union.
Last November, Medina led a fast on the National Mall that lasted 22 days. Invoking the spirit of Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, the fasters prayed, spoke to elected representatives and called for comprehensive reform to address the moral crisis of a broken immigration system.
On the bus tour, the Fast for Families activists covered 18,000 miles and visited 90 congressional districts. One of their "asks" was that House members sign on to a petition demanding that Boehner bring H.R. 15, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, to the floor for a vote. (See related story.)
"We have heard that we can't have a vote because it isn't the popular thing to do," said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. "Leaders don't do what is popular. They do what is right, and we are demanding that Congress take a vote!"
Joining the AFT at the rally were supporters from We Belong Together, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the Advancement Project, AFSCME, SEIU and other labor unions. They cheered the activists and fasters, who delivered a letter and petitions with 20,000 signatures to the speaker's office.
April 9 also was National Educators Coming Out Day, a day for teachers and faculty to support their students who aspire to be American citizens. AFT leaders and members across the country showed their support.
[Tiffany Dena Loftin, Evan Sutton]